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“It Could Never Happen Here” Could it?

August 13, 2014

Dear friends – it is past time to put away our comforts and fall to our knees. We have all been horrified by eyewitness reports of abductions and brutal executions happening even today, this minute, in many parts of the world. This is news none of us want to hear, but it is happening, and we must not tell ourselves we are safe.

Christians particularly are being targeted in the onslaught as never before; the savage violence is not like any war we can remember. It seems the world is descending into chaos, and we wonder who, if anyone, is doing anything about it.

The “religion of peace” has begun to show its ugly face. Thousands in Iraq, Syria, Sudan, India and other countries are running for their lives, leaving all their possessions as the killers invade. Last Tuesday a family of eight were shot in the face after refusing to convert to Islam. Witnesses said an open Bible was on the couch beside the bloody bodies.

The systematic execution of Iraqi Christians by beheading and crucifixion—can only be described as genocide. Symbols are painted on Christian homes by supporters of ISIS, now called “The Islamic State”- marking them for attack.  Words in black letters read “property of Islamist State.”

Residents of Mosul and Ninevah are fleeing to Kurdish states in the north. Witnesses of the violence say that hideous executions are running in the hundreds. They say even children are being beheaded in the streets. Families are dragged out of their homes, fathers forced to watch as their children and wives are killed in front of them. Some victims are forced to dig their own graves.

The Reverend Canon Andrew White, a priest of the last Anglican Church in Iraq, is known as the “Vicar of Baghdad.” He risks his own life by refusing to leave his people. 

He pleads for our prayers and support: “When we think it cannot get any worse, every day it does … for the first time in 1600 years, we have no masses, no church in Ninevah.

“Hell has broken out. People simply do not know what is going to happen next … a child I baptized was cut in half.”

The terrorists do give their victims choices – they can leave, or pay the oppressors to let them stay alive.  Or they can renounce their faith and convert to Islam. Or they can die by the sword. The killers are well-organized, and very well equipped.

This is not new behavior for the radical Islamists. They have terrorized and murdered for hundreds of years. The Islamic State has become the most feared organization in the world.

A UN human rights spokesman says, “The executions run in the hundreds … jihadists kill with abandon. Acts of terror run from summary executions to amputations and crucifixions … incredible brutality.” 

You will not find much of this in our national news, but the videos and the eyewitness reports are out there – do your own research, and be even more shocked and outraged. While our government is still “weighing” the situation, one representative made a stronger statement when he said we are “ignoring the genocidal atrocities now taking place.”  

Many people still believe the Bible and the Q’uran are balancing counterparts. They are not. There are more than 100 verses of war in their holy book, like Surah 47: “When you meet the unbelievers in the fields, strike off their heads until you have crushed them completely.”

Most of us would prefer to live our quiet, peaceful lives; watching Sunday night TV and football. We must be careful to not shut our eyes and ears to these alarming events. The world is not as far away as it used to be. We must be able to hear the pleas rising to heaven from our Christian brothers and sisters who are being martyred for their faith in Jesus.    

We must go to our knees, and not be ignorant of the jihadists’ arrogant promise: “We are coming to America.” We must not assume we are safe.

As these terrible people use their swords, let’s use our own formidable and powerful weapon – prayer. Our spiritual enemies tremble when we pray!  

God has given us what we need, but we must put on every piece of the armor He has provided; stand firm, be alert – and PRAY! Be strong, be informed, and pray. Read and memorize Ephesians 6:10-18.  We have power, let us use it!

In Christ,
Glenda Harper

This week’s message:

“Spiritual Disinterest”
Haggai 1:1-15
Dr. Jimmy Latimer


“A Friend Remembered”

August 8, 2014

As your pastor, I am taking a point of personal privilege to make a few remarks about my long-time friend, Jim Wells, who went on ahead last Sunday. My brother, Johnny, who is also a pastor, said he no longer holds funerals, but conducts memorial services for his friends. I have felt that way for some time. I have many friends, both in and out of our church, and I cherish each and every one of them, but I believe with all of my heart that the timing and reason for my friendship with Jim Wells was a God thing!

During the week of November 14, 1975, Jim Wells, whom I barely knew, came to my office at Central Church at 6311 Poplar Avenue—talked his way through my secretary, Cherie, and told me that he was celebrating his 38th birthday, and that God had convicted him that he should be my friend and take care of me. For starters, he said that he was not sure that he agreed with my doctrine, but it was evident that I was doing a good work and God was blessing it. He also said that he did not believe that I was getting any physical exercise and that his assignment from God was to keep me healthy. He taught me to play racquetball and took me out to play every Tuesday night for 20 years. I never did become competitive, but I did get a lot of exercise. Time and circumstances always change things. Jim, Linda and Madison lived in Dallas for a few years, stayed in touch, and when the family moved back to Memphis, we resumed an active friendship including racquetball.

For some of those years, due to the high visibility of my work, I had a “rock star” status. I appreciate the fact that during those years, Jim kept my feet on the ground, and kept me balanced, while at the same time, he handled the criticism that was unjust, and for that I am grateful. He also bore another burden in that “people took him to lunch” trying to get tidbits of information for the gossip mill. He was too smart for that and told them that he was my friend, not my press secretary.

Our friendship was mutually mentally, spiritually and politically stimulating. We engaged ourselves in a conversation about a variety of subjects. He was widely read, a Bible scholar, a music/entertainment critic, and he was politically savvy! He was a Democrat and I am a Republican, but it was good for both of us. We attended many local presentations of the arts, including opera. We travelled together nationally and internationally, including the Holy Land, and sometimes we even talked about wanting to go to the moon. He had a positive attitude and brightened my life on many a dark day. He loved sports, and I could have cared less. I took him to NASCAR and he finally forgave me! Ours was a mature friendship, not based on agreement in every area, but on trust and love. I want to say thank you to Linda, Madison, and Delia for including me in their family.

The two passages of scripture that have sustained me in these days, are I Samuel 18:1, 3-4 and II Timothy 4:6-18. I am sure I haven’t covered everything my heart has felt, but I will miss him the rest of my life.

Maranatha (I. Cor. 16:22)  
Jimmy Latimer

This week’s message:

“Dealing With The Problem Of Disinterest”
Haggai 1:1-15
Dr. Jimmy Latimer

“The New Covenant”

July 29, 2014

We completed our study in Habakkuk last Sunday by observing that the prophet Habakkuk had confidence in God’s faithfulness because he believed that God would always honor His commitment to the Covenant. That was the Old Covenant. Today we are going to be looking at the New Covenant, which I think is best explained in an article on page 2077 in The Word in Life Study Bible, which was the commemorative Bible we used at Central for the church’s 100th anniversary. The article is entitled:

The New Covenant

Even as a casual reader of the Bible soon discovers, it is divided into two major sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. But how many readers realize that “testament” is just another word for “covenant”? Thus, the New Testament describes the new covenant (I Cor. 11:25), or agreement, that God has made with humanity, based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the Bible, a covenant involves much more than a contract or simple agreement. A contract has an end date, but a covenant is a permanent agreement. Furthermore, a contract generally involves only one aspect of a person, such as a skill, while a covenant covers a person’s total being.

God entered into numerous covenants with people in the Old Testament. For example: with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15); with Noah (8:21-22); II Peter 3:7, 15); with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3); with Israel (Deut. 29:1-30:20); and with David (II Sam. 7:12-16; 22-51).

This agreement with Israel was especially significant, because it established a special relationship between God and the Hebrews. They were made His “chosen people” through whom He would bring blessing and hope to the rest of the world. However, because the recipients of God’s Law could not keep it perfectly, further provision was necessary for them as well as for the rest of humanity.

That’s why God promised a new covenant through the prophet Jeremiah.

The work of Jesus Christ brought the promised new covenant into being. When Jesus ate His final Passover meal with the Twelve, He spoke of the cup as the “new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20), the words that Paul quoted to the Corinthians to remind them of the need for purity and propriety in their worship (I Cor. 11:25-34).

The new covenant in Jesus’ blood rests directly on the sacrificial work of Christ on the Cross (which was prefigured by Israel’s system of sacrifices) and accomplishes the removal of sin and cleansing of the conscience by faith in Him (Heb. 10:2, 22). So every time Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper, they remind themselves that God has fulfilled His promise: “I will be their God, and thy shall be My people…I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Heb. 8:10, 12; compare Jer. 31:33-34).

In Christ,

This week’s message:

“The New Covenant”
I Corinthians 11:23-26
Dr. Jimmy Latimer

“Corporate Worship”

July 23, 2014

One of the most heretical words in the church is the word “change.” Some Christians are so set in their ways they won’t even change a light bulb, but sometimes change is necessary and inevitable. I want us to start making some minor changes in our worship services periodically. This does not mean we are going to change everything all at once nor for that matter, everything for- ever.

I have already shared with you in other epistles that we have made the decision as a church that we are going to minister to baby boomers and not millennials. This by definition means that our worship services will reflect the best of our Christian heritage in- stead of trying to emulate a rock concert. I have also pointed out to you that some millennials find themselves seeking baby boomer type services because they enjoy its structured worship. Their daily lives are bombarded with so many haphazard things that they need structure in their worship experience. I, therefore, want to propose some occasional additions to the way we worship to enhance your participation in the worship experience.

The Elders voted at our last meeting for us to have Holy Communion the first Sunday of each month. There are several passages in the Scriptures which instruct us how to conduct ourselves during Holy Communion. One of the most easily understood passages is I Corinthians 11:23-26 which says. “23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

One of the reasons that Holy Communion is so important as a regular part of our worship is because of the emphasis of verse 26. Holy Communion is a means of grace whereby we as Christians find our relationship with Christ strengthened. But, it also serves as a clear proclamation of the reason Christ died for mankind. Holy Communion proclaims to the world that Christ died for our sins and will take us through to the Second Coming and beyond.

We will be celebrating Holy Communion during our worship time next Sunday morning. Please prepare your heart for this encounter.

In Christ,

This week’s message:

“Reaching Out To God”
Habakkuk 3:1-19
Dr. Jimmy Latimer

“Sharpening Our Focus”

July 17, 2014

In last week’s epistle, we dealt with ways in which to enhance our worship service in order to honor our God more faithfully, and to receive more encouragement and blessing in our lives. We, of course, use musical instruments backed by electronic enhancements, plus a full choir and congregational singing led by our Minister of Music, Jonathan Matthews. Before Jonathan became our Minister of Music, we talked about the fact that we would be using more hymns that our generation is familiar with, thus giving the congregation more opportunities to participate in worship.

Congregational worship not only brings us to a personal encounter with God, but it also prepares our hearts and sets the stage for the proclamation of God’s Word. This is very important because the proclamation of the Word is in the words of the reformer, John Calvin, the Protestant altar. I mentioned a few weeks ago that Haddon Robinson, in his new book on preaching, began by saying that he might be writing a book for a depressed market, because many churches today don’t want Biblical preaching or any preaching for that matter. This is not surprising because Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because

I Corinthians 1:18 says “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

God’s method of communication never changes. In the Old Testament, He sent His Word through the prophets and what the prophets had to say was the Word of God and revealed God’s truth to their generation. Amos 3:7 says “Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.”

In the New Testament, the Word of God is revealed through the apostles. In Romans 1:11 Paul says, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established.” All the way through the New Testament, the apostles spoke God’s Word. What was enfolded in the Old Testament was unfolded in the New Testament that we might know the continuity of God’s message in Jesus Christ through all the ages. Jesus tied this together when He spoke to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road in Luke 24:27 “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

Preaching is an awesome responsibility for the preacher and the congregation.

In Christ,

This week’s message:

“Reaching Out To God”
Habakkuk 3:1-19
Dr. Jimmy Latimer

“Let’s Talk About Worship”

July 12, 2014

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article concerning the fact that the Elders made a decision that we would define ourselves both in our planning and in our programming to be a church primarily focused on the “Baby Boomer” generation as opposed to the “Millennial Generation.” In saying that, we recognize the fact that the distinction is not always clear cut and there are other sub generations within the main generation. That, however, being said, our focus will be toward those born right after WWII and up through the eighties.

But what does this mean?

This means in reality that our services will be what I call “classic heritage” services. That is the “heritage” that most of us enjoyed in the forties through the eighties. The difference between “heritage” and “traditional” is that “heritage” focuses on our own history here in the Mid-South and more particularly what most of us have experienced in our various churches up to this point. “Traditional” is a broader definition, which is more inclusive in scope, whereas “heritage” focuses on the people in our own local church.

This means that we will have a choir, organ and piano, hymns, and other special music that continues to have a meaning for all of us “Baby Boomers.” Some new music will be included, which will become a part of our children’s heritage. But by and large, we are not going to make a gigantic step away from the way we have been worshipping through most of our adult lives.

My son told me the other night that he had read an article about some “Millennials” who were going so far as becoming Roman Catholics and Episcopalians because their lives are so hectic that they want their spiritual life to be more structured. It is along this same line that I have been thinking about establishing a permanent time to celebrate the Holy Communion, and a time to introduce, explain, and use the classic creeds of our Christian heritage. Most of the creeds came 200 to 300 years after the time of Christ, and focused on the essentials that the church fathers felt should be shared from generation to generation. I guess what I am trying to say is that if we lose our connection to the past and get out of touch with our heritage as believers, we will be sailing in uncharted waters and find ourselves victims of heresies that were settled hundreds of years ago.

I would be interested to have feedback from you.

In Christ,

This week’s message:

“God Is NOT An App.”
Habakkuk 2:1-20
Dr. Jimmy Latimer

“The Fourth Of July”

July 3, 2014

This is the “Fourth of July” weekend. Americans are celebrating the 238th anniversary of the signing of The Declaration Of Independence. It is sometimes called the 4th of July or Independence Day, but it is an important day in the life of America.

From the beginning until the present day, the 4th of July has been associated with fireworks, parades, bar-b-ques, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, political speeches and other ceremonies. We have certainly seen all these things this week!

Historically, during the American Revolution, the actual legal separation of the 13 colonies from Great Britain took place on July 2. It was on that day that the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. This declaration declared the United States to be independent from Great Britain.

After voting to be independent, Congress focused its attention on the document we know as The Declaration of Independence. This document, which is the cornerstone of our independence, was prepared by a committee of five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal architect. Congress debated and revised the wording and ironically a day earlier, John Adams in a letter to his wife, Abigail, said: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” Adams prediction was off by two days, because, for some reason, Americans chose to celebrate July 4, the day the Declaration was signed instead of July 2, the day it was adopted.

The only two signers of The Declaration Of Independence who later served as Presidents of The United States were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. In a strange turn of events, and an interesting coincidence, they both died on July 4, 1826 which was the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Other interesting facts are that James Monroe, who also was a President, died on July 4, 1831 and Calvin Coolidge, the 39th President, was born on July 4, 1872.
I would like to remind you again that John Adams in his letter to his wife, Abigail, suggested that the 4th of July be celebrated by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. That is what we choose to do here today!

In Christ,

This week’s message:

“Who’s Talking Now?” Part 2
Habakkuk 1:1-2:1
Dr. Jimmy Latimer